How to Find a Lost Dog

Nicole LaForest, LVT, BSc, MPH
By Nicole LaForest, LVT, BSc, MPH. Reviewed by Barri J. Morrison, DVM on Jul. 30, 2023
A person puts up a lost dog poster.

Your dog is more than just a pet—they’re a member of your family. Losing your companion can be very difficult for you and your pet. Sadly, over 10 million pets are lost or stolen in the United States every year, but there are ways to keep your pup safe and hopefully prevent them from running off in the future. In this article, you’ll learn about what to do if your dog goes missing and how you can prevent it in the future.

Key Takeaways

  • Ensure your dog is microchipped and most importantly, make sure their microchip is registered in the database.
  • Lean on friends and family to help spread the word by placing flyers throughout your neighborhood and sharing your pup’s photo on social media.
  • Contact local rescues and vet offices find out if any found dogs have been dropped off recently.
  • Stay positive and keep searching.

What Can You Do If Your Dog Is Lost?

When your dog goes missing, you need to act quickly and effectively in the first few hours. Here are a few things to keep in mind when looking for your dog:

  • Search the immediate area where your dog was last seen.
  • Place an item with your dog’s scent, such as a blanket or toy, in areas they may often go.
  • Leave some food and water out in the open for your dog. Consider placing a motion-activated camera in this area to see if your dog returns and eats from the bowl.
  • Look around your house, checking under furniture and other small spaces. Listen closely for any sounds or movements.
  • Go around your neighborhood and call your dog by name.
  • Speak to your neighbors and ask if they’ve seen your pup.
  • Print flyers with your dog’s name and your contact information, and include any tips on how to approach your pup in case they are anxious of strangers. Spread them throughout the neighborhood and don’t be afraid to ask your friends and family to help in your search.
  • Contact your local animal shelter, vet, or animal control department and give them a detailed description of your dog, including any specific characteristics.

Spread the Word on Social Media

Spread the word about your lost dog on social media by creating posts. Include a recent photo of them, a detailed description of where and when they were last seen, and your contact information. Post this information across multiple social media channels and ask friends to like and share it. Many neighborhoods often have their own local pages for missing pets and will help to spread the word. Posting on lost-pet websites can also help you reach a wider audience. Offering a reward, if possible, can also encourage people to keep an eye out for your dog.

Make Lost Dog Posters

Making lost dog posters can also help spread the word in your community. Similar to a social media post, you should include a recent photo of your dog, their description, and your contact information. Remember, it’s important to note how to approach your pup in case they are skittish and may easily run from a stranger. Put up the posters in areas with high traffic, such as intersections, parks, and shops in your city or town. Make them stand out by using bright colors and large fonts.

Call Your Local Shelters and Rescue Organizations

Local shelters, rescues, and vet offices can be helpful. They may have picked up your dog or know of any sightings in the area that have been reported. Give them a description of your dog, including their size, breed, and any specific features that will help them to identify your pet. Be sure to follow up with them regularly to ensure that they are aware of your dog's disappearance and let them know when your dog has been found.

Hire a Dog Tracker

You may consider hiring a dog tracker to help find your pet. They use scent tracking to locate lost dogs. The services can often be expensive, but dog trackers often have a high success rate. If you choose to hire one, make sure to do your research. Read reviews and make sure you hire someone with a good reputation. To aid in the search for your dog, the dog tracker may ask for a piece of clothing or property that has your pet’s scent on it.

How To Keep Your Dog Safe from Becoming Lost

It’s important to take preventative steps to keep your dog safe. There are a few additional ways you can help your pet:

  • Keep your dog’s ID tags on their collar.
  • Speak with your vet about getting your dog microchipped. It’s important to note that a microchip is only effective if you register your pup’s microchip. Make sure your pup’s chip is registered and up to date each year.
  • Keep your dog on a leash if it is outside or in a fenced-in area.
  • Train your dog to come when you call.

It can be a troubling and emotional time when your dog goes missing. Remember, if you take immediate action, the chances of finding your pet can increase greatly. By having a plan in place, you can feel confident in your pet’s safety.

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Nicole LaForest, LVT, BSc, MPH


Nicole LaForest, LVT, BSc, MPH

Veterinarian Technician

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